A college dorm dining hall is like a free buffet. A simple swipe of a student I.D. and the food choices are limitless. A full salad and sandwich bar leads to the pizza, burgers and fries section; next to the pasta and entrée of the day. A freshman’s nervous stomach can keep them away from junk food only so long.
As days pass and nerves dissipate, comfort can turn into hunger. The salad bar seems less appealing and a new student uses any excuse to head for the burgers and pizza instead.
“When students get to the dining halls it’s like a kid in a candy shop,” said Dennis Pierce, director of Dining Services at the University of Connecticut. “At home food is regimented, you eat what your parents buy and make. In the dining halls there are so many options, healthy or unhealthy. We are serving them healthy foods, they just aren’t choosing the healthy foods.”
Campus food myths
Nutrition experts say the “Freshman 15” – that inevitable gain of 15 pounds – is a myth. But the fact remains that almost every new college student fears it an believes it will happen regardless of their habits.
Dr. Nicole Mihalopulos of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah and Peggy Auinger and Dr. Jonathan Klein of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester, studied the issue. Their study found the college freshmen they followed and observed gained an average of 2.7 pounds throughout the year.
Want some Ex-Lax with that pizza?
As ardently as college students believe the myth about weight gain, they also believe another myth: laxatives are put into dining hall foods.
“Every year, about 3 to 5 weeks into the semester, the rumor starts up about laxatives in the dining hall foods,” Pierce said. “Freshmen have a huge issue with stress. Stress about schoolwork, stress about being away from home, and stress about making new friends. This stress can materialize into irregular bowel movements.”
So while four weeks into the semester it may seem like Ex-Lax was mixed in with the alfredo sauce, it’s probably the three midterms coming up that have students catching up on bathroom gossip.
The college lifestyle may be different, but it certainly doesn’t have to be destructive to one’s digestive system or metabolism. Instead of falling prey to the myths, students should take some age-old advice and not believe everything they hear.
Interested in what’s for dinner at UConn’s numerous dining halls?